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by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 21, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’m preparing to sell my home this year and wondering if remodeling the 1990s kitchen and bathrooms will improve the resale value and help me sell faster or if I should leave it as-is. Is there a good way to decide which option is best?

Answer: Yes, remodeling your 1990s kitchen and bathroom will improve the resale value and probably help the home sell faster, but that’s not the right question to ask. The question you need answered is what updates will create a positive Return on Investment (ROI), meaning that every dollar you spend on updates results in an increase in expected sale price of at least one dollar. For many sellers, this is the most valuable advice your real estate agent can provide.

Avoid Most Remodeling Projects

Simply put, most remodeling projects do not return a positive ROI for homeowners. A number of large companies including Zillow and Remodeling Magazine have conducted extensive studies and determined that most large-scale remodeling projects like bathrooms, kitchens, roofs, additions, etc only return about 50-80 percent of their cost on the resale market. Remodeling Magazine updates their Cost vs. Value statistics every year using regional data and has a great report specific to the DC Metro area.

No Simple Answer…

  • There’s no easy answer to this question without being in the house, meeting with the owners, and knowing the local market. Here are some questions that need to be considered:
  • Who is the most likely buyer? Are they likely to have cash on-hand to make updates themselves?
  • Can the home be considered move-in ready in its current state?
  • Is the home suffering from functional obsolescence or just requires a quick facelift?
  • In as-is condition, does the home and pricing appeal to an investor?
  • How has the market reacted to homes in similar as-is condition, in similar condition with minor updates, and in similar condition with major updates/remodeling?
  • How much similar inventory is there (current and projected) at each level of updates (as-is, minor, major)?
  • What are your (homeowner) sales priorities, timeline, and pre-sale cash on-hand?
  • Is it easy for a buyer to envision an updated version of your home?

…But I’ll Try

Here are some tips and principles I find myself using most-often when advising homeowners on pre-sale updates:

  • Flooring (replace/refinish), paint (walls, trim, doors), de-cluttering, and staging are affordable for most homeowners and almost always result in a positive ROI and in some cases new, matching kitchen appliances are positive ROI investments
  • There are a lot of little things you can do to improve curb appeal (e.g. power washing and mulching) and interior appeal (e.g. new outlet plates and door knobs) that make a big difference
  • Updates should be done in groups/tiers, not one-offs, so that your investment is coordinated and within budget. In other words, if you commit to doing one update, you need to commit to other similar updates in order to get a positive ROI. For example, it doesn’t make sense to replace flooring if you’re not committed to de-cluttering or to remodel a master bathroom and leave your 30 year old kitchen untouched.
  • If you’re planning to live in your home for a few years after remodeling so that you benefit from the updates, then a 60-80% ROI may be an acceptable return. In this case, visit a few local new homes or builder design centers to see what today’s buyers like and try to replicate it to maximize the ROI when you do sell.

Strategically investing in pre-listing updates should be a well thought out process with different options priced out next to projected impact to sale price and speed of sale. For many homeowners, this process can take upwards of 3-6 months from planning through project completion before being ready to sell, so start early and invest wisely! Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] or (703) 539-2529 if you’re thinking about selling your home and want an opinion on the most effective way of investing in pre-listing updates!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 14, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Does it matter which lender/mortgage company I choose when I purchase a home?

Answer: Choosing a good lender is one of the most important decisions you make during the home buying process. One of the initial differentiators is whether your lender runs credit and collects your documents up-front (W-2s, income verification, bank statements, etc) or just asks questions about your income and debt. This early effort drives most of the following reasons a good lender is able to make such a big difference:

Stronger Offers

Better Pre-Approval: When I review offers on a listing, I put a lot of value in the quality of the lender who wrote the pre-approval letter for the buyer. I also call the lender to 1) make sure they’re responsive 2) ask them what information/documents they reviewed and 3) about the financial strength of the buyer. Approval letters from unreliable lenders or lenders who haven’t reviewed a full set of documents pose a moderate risk of not closing, which weakens the offer.

Close Faster: Online lenders and larger banks have difficulty closing in less than 35-45 days, but a good lender can close in less than three weeks. If you find yourself competing for a property, working with a lender who can close faster than the offers you’re competing against will significantly increase the probability of your offer being chosen. I’ve represented buyers and sellers where the chosen offer isn’t the highest sale price, but the strongest overall offer, often attributed to the quality of the lender and their ability to close faster.

Don’t Miss Settlement

Good lenders do not miss the settlement date. Their reputation and business rely on it. If you miss the contracted settlement date, you’re (usually) in default and expose yourself to risks including loss of Earnest Money Deposit or having the contract voided by the seller.

A good question to ask your lender is where their staff works. There are quite a few people involved in getting your loan approved including the loan officer, processor, and underwriters. Lenders with a history of missing settlement deadlines often have staff working in different locations, that don’t regularly work together. If your lender works in the same physical office as all of those people, that’s a good indication that they can handle issues efficiently and have a high probability of meeting the settlement date.

Don’t Get Duped (Rate vs APR)

Be careful when you’re comparing interest rates, especially online rates. First, make sure you’re comparing the Annual Percentage Rate (APR), not the interest rate. Many lenders advertise lower rates by including points (you pay cash up-front for a lower rate) or they charge higher fees. The APR is a measure of the total cost of the loan, including points, fees, and interest rate and allows for an apples-to-apples comparison. Second, it’s important to note that conforming loans (loan amounts of $636,150 or less), which are backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, typically have very little variation in rates because they usually follow similar Fannie and Freddie guidelines and market pricing. The biggest differences in rates are on non-conforming loan amounts (over $636,150) and in special programs like Doctor or Attorney loans.

Reliable Pre-Approvals

A reliable pre-approval gives you the confidence that you’ll qualify for the loan you’re applying for. Weak pre-approval letters lead to surprises during the loan application process, which can lead to rejection letters or delays. The last thing you want is to find out you don’t qualify after you’ve spent money on a home inspection, appraisal, and started packing for a move that may not happen. Reviewing all of your documents early also gives you and your lender time to fix credit scores, debt ratios, and other issues to increase your purchasing power or improve your interest rates.

Loan Consultant

In most cases, buyers should be considering multiple loan products and finding the best fit. This is particularly true if you’re buying and selling a property and would like to purchase without a home sale contingency, if you’re exploring low down payment options, or if you’re planning to own the property for less than 10 years and can benefit from the lower rates of an Adjustable Rate Mortgage (ARM). A good lender will have access to a wide range of great products, including Doctor and Attorney programs, and be able to advise you on the type of loan that nets you the best long-term results.

If you’re considering buying or in the process of talking to lenders, I’d be happy to make some recommendations based on your financial situation, type of purchase, and goals. Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected]

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — February 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Does the winter impact all housing types equally or do certain types of homes fare worse during the cold season?

Answer: I have always held the theory that suburban homes with yards, trees, and plant life are impacted more when leaves/plants die in November than homes without any private/nearby trees and plant life (e.g. condos). This week, I decided to test my hypothesis by comparing sales statistics between single family homes in the 22207 zip code, the area of Arlington with the most tree/plant growth, with the sales statistics for condos in the 22201 zip code, where tree canopy and plant growth isn’t a major factor for buyers.

For my hypothesis to hold true, we would see the usual increase in days on market and discounts from asking price during the colder months across both sets of data, but a higher variation from the mean for the single family homes.

Summary of the data set:

  • The data is broken down by properties listed in November – February and April – September because I wanted to target properties listed during leafy/bare months (note, I removed properties listed in March and October)
  • Single family sales in 22207 date back to 2010 to arrive at 882 data points
  • Condo sales in 22201 dates back to 2014 to arrive at 862 data points
  • I removed extremes including properties that took 200+ days to sell and properties that sold at a discount of 15% or more because these would suggest their difficulty selling had nothing to do with seasonality
  • I didn’t include new construction in the single family data
  • Single family lot size had to be at least two tenths of an acre

Split Findings

Ask Eli Feb. 7 table on single-family homes

Using the two main data points of days on market and percent discount of sold price from original list price, the data suggests that my hypothesis is incorrect and all types of property are impacted similarly by seasonality, regardless of how much tree/plant growth there is on and near the property.

However, I also attempted to measure how sellers were pricing their homes during each time of year by calculating the percent difference between the original list price and previous year’s tax assessment. I figure that this is the most accurate way to gauge asking price relative to market price across a large set of data. Under this assumption, I drew a different conclusion that the only thing keeping seasonal sales of single-family homes with tree/plant growth consistent with condos is that sellers underpriced their homes from Nov-Feb (or overpriced Apr-Sept) whereas condo pricing remains slightly more consistent through out the year. In other words, if homes sold Nov-Feb, featuring tree/plant growth, were priced the same as they are during leafy months, there would be a sharper increase in days on market and larger discounts, proving my hypothesis correct.

Another factor in drawing any conclusions from these numbers is how much the housing supply varies by season. With substantially fewer homes listed during the colder months, homes on the market at that time face much less competition, thereby helping to offset the negative impact of bare trees/plants, colder temperatures, and less daylight. However, this also seems to impact all housing types equally.

Using Real Estate Data

Data like this can help buyers and sellers make more informed decisions, but you should be cautious of how much influence you allow it to have. Unlike other data-heavy industries like the stock market and marketing, localized real estate data is full of anomalies, missing data, and misrepresented data making it challenging to draw reliable conclusions and necessary for the person analyzing the data to understand the local market as well as the strengths/weaknesses of certain data elements. I’m clearly a proponent for incorporating customized data into real estate decisions when applicable, but for those of you in data-dependent industries, keep in mind that your weighting factor for real estate data should be less than you’re used to.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 31, 2017 at 12:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What’s being built across the street from Turnberry Tower in Rosslyn?

Answer: We don’t see many new condo projects these days in Arlington, developers are going with apartments due to low interest rates and surging rents, so the new Key & Nash condo and townhome project in Rosslyn is a welcome addition to the neighborhood. Over the last five years, we’ve had an underwhelming number of condo deliveries.

Along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, the only new condo sales have been Arc 3409 in Virginia Square (converted from a hotel in 2014) and Gaslight Square in Rosslyn (luxury condos).

On Thursday evening, the Key & Nash team hosted an unveiling party on the 23rd floor of 1812 N. Moore (the Monday Properties/Goldman Sachs building that has sat empty the last few years) to release details of the project and start sales for a late-2017 delivery. Leading up to the project, I expected that NVHomes’ new Urban Division would look to successful nearby luxury projects like Gaslight Square, The Wooster, Rosslyn Key, and Rhodes Hill Square for their design and pricing with an emphasis on Gaslight Square considering its most recent success with Phase 3 (final build-out).

Instead of delivering a fully custom luxury product, NVHomes is sticking with their bread and butter formula of delivering a more moderate project that fits surprisingly well between Rosslyn’s mid-market options like The Atrium, The Belvedere, 1800 Wilson and its luxury options like Turnberry Tower, Waterview, and those mentioned above. It makes sense for NVHomes, avoids over-saturating the Rosslyn luxury market, and satisfies demand.

With just over sixty units including 1BR + den, 2BR, 2BR + den, and 3BR flats ranging from about 850sqft to just over 1,500 sq ft, plus five 3BR townhomes at nearly 2,000 sq ft there are a surprising number of options for buyers.  Starting in the low $600s and clearing the $1M mark for some of the larger flats and townhomes, it’s an attractive $/sq ft for a new building just a block from the metro and likely to benefit from the massive redevelopment of downtown Rosslyn. For market-average condo fees, residents will get a high-end gym, 7-day/week concierge, roof deck, large common terrace w/ grills, and underground parking.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the larger 2BR + den/3BR flats do compared to the townhomes. I think the challenge for the townhomes will be the fact that the master bedroom is the entire top floor, with the 2nd and 3rd bedrooms on the 2nd floor (main level is kitchen and living space), making it a difficult layout for buyers with a young child (prefer to sleep on the same level) and a lot of steps for regular trips between living space and master bedroom. However, with only five townhomes being delivered, they’ll probably be the first to sell-out.

Personally, I think the best value purchases are the 1BR + den and smaller 2BR/2BA because they’ll make great rental properties with the dens/2nd bedrooms being on opposite sides of the apartment from the master bedroom (ideal for roommates). If you’re planning to live there for a while and can afford the premium, there are two 2BRs with 500 sq ft private terraces and a handful of 1BR + den and 2BRs in the back with larger Limited Common Element terraces (only accessible to your unit, but technically common space) that offer hard-to-find “useable” outdoor space.

While there wasn’t anybody camping out for the sales office to open, the line to sign-up for a sales meeting on Thursday night reached 50+ people at some points and there were probably a few hundred people at the event. The R-B corridor and Arlington market is hungry for new condos and this delivers at a price range that meets a lot of budgets and designed to accommodate a range of buyer types, so I expect sales to move fairly quickly, even though people won’t get to step foot into a unit until the end of the year.

Feel free to reach out to me at [email protected] if you have any specific questions about the floor plans, pricing, location, sales process, etc or if you’re considering a purchase in the building. I’d be happy to discuss details and my thoughts on the investment potential of purchasing in Rosslyn.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 24, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: As a senior citizen looking ahead, I don’t want to move into a senior community and would like to stay in Arlington. What options do I have to age-in-place in my own home or another detached home? Is there a way to search specifically for suitable properties?

Answer: This may sound crazy, but Arlington isn’t made up of just Millennials! With 8% of our population between the age of 65 and 84, we have thousands of residents who have called Arlington home for decades and want to continue calling it home. If a senior community doesn’t suit you, there are some great ways to stay home and accommodate a live-in caregiver.

Accessory Dwellings (AD)

In Arlington, an AD is a living space attached to the main home with a separate entrance, kitchen, bathroom, and bedroom. It can house up to two people, unrelated to the homeowner(s) in a space not to exceed 750sqft (size of most 1BR apartments) or half the size of the main dwelling.

  • ADs range from basements, additions to the main level, or attic conversions as long as they meet the various requirements for entrances, ceiling heights, size, egress, fire protection, etc.
  • Arlington County sets a limit of 28 new ADs per year, but speaking to the Zoning Office, they only receive a couple applications per year and quickly approve them as long as all requirements and permits are in place, so don’t worry about your application being denied
  • Homeowners can collect rent from somebody living in an AD (doesn’t have to be a caregiver), so often times aging homeowners will use a combination of rent and caregiving services as consideration for a place to live
  • While it’s common for the homeowner to live in the main dwelling, the requirements seem to allow the homeowner to also live in the AD with the tenant in the main home. This could make a lot of sense for a homeowner who prefers to exchange tenancy in the main dwelling for higher levels of care.

If you’re considering converting a portion of your home to an AD or building an addition, it’s strongly recommended to reach out to the county’s Zoning Office early in the process to avoid wasted investment or missed requirements. You’ll need to ensure certain design, parking, and safety requirements to get approved. Once a Zoning Inspector has signed off on the property, the application process generally takes about one month and costs a couple hundred dollars.

Caregiver Suites

In Arlington, a Caregiver Suite is a space inside the home, up to 500 square feet, for up to two people outside of the immediate family, related or unrelated. Unlike an AD, the occupant(s) of a Caregiver Suite must provide care to at least one member of the household (child, elderly, or disabled). The homeowner may still collect rent. The space can be an existing area of the home or a new addition.

Arlington County does not allow both an AD and a Caregiver Suite on the same property.

For some aging homeowners in Arlington County, their existing homes can be converted to accommodate an AD or Caregiver Suite with a total investment substantially lower than the costs of moving. However, if you who have steps leading to or inside the main dwelling, no basement access, or other issues that make a conversion difficult, you may need to look to the marketplace for an AD-ready home. While I’m not aware of a good way to search for homes that have already been AD-approved, there are certain search criteria that will help identify homes that can be converted at a relatively low cost such as rambler/ranchers with a walk-out basement.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 17, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Two weeks ago you wrote a column stating that the average sale price growth in Arlington was 0.15%, but the County just announced that the average tax assessment will increase by 2.9%, why the difference and is there anything I can do to challenge my assessment if I think it’s too high?

Answer: The numbers I used two weeks ago in my 2016 market review were based on the average sold price (less any seller credits) for all on-market homes sold in Arlington in 2016. While the County does factor in recent sales, they use a different model for calculating the tax assessment that includes lot size, taxable square footage, permit history (major updated/additions) and other factors. The County’s approach is localized by neighborhood rather than across the entire county and they use data from Sept 1-August 31. For example, your 2016 assessment is based on market data from Sept 1, 2015-August 31, 2016.

Overall, Arlington homeowners get a pretty good deal on their tax assessments from the County. In 2016, the average home in Arlington sold for almost $85,000 more than its 2015 tax assessment. At a tax rate of .991%, that’s about a $850 “savings.” Here’s a look at the average difference in sold price vs the previous year’s tax assessment value in Arlington over the last five years, broken out by zip code:

Ask Eli chart Jan 17

Here’s the average difference between 2016 sale prices and their 2015 assessed values, broken out by the three major types of housing in Arlington:

Ask Eli chart 2 Jan 17

Note that for both tables above, I removed any sales where the tax record didn’t include an assessed value (about 5% of sales records).

In 2016, Arlingtonians will pay .991% of their assessed value in real estate taxes. Every year you have an opportunity to appeal your assessment and yes, it has worked, but the burden of proof is on the homeowner, not the County. Arlington provides an informative website on the appeal process.

Quick hits on the appeal process:

  • Expect to receive your 2016 assessed value in later this month
  • Your first appeal with the Dept of Real Estate Assessments must be filed by March 2, 2016
  • Step 1: Call 703-228-3920 for information on how your assessment was determined
  • Step 2: File your appeal online here (First Level)
  • Step 3: An assessor will visit your home and you can provide relevant info to make your case
  • Step 4: If you’re not satisfied with the decision or have not received written notice by April 1, file your second appeal with the Board of Equalization online here (Second Level) by April 15
  • Step 5: If you’re not satisfied with the decision, your final option for appeal is with the Circuit Court, which will likely require you to hire an attorney

If you’re considering appealing your tax assessment, feel free to reach out to me to discuss building a case. I have access to micro and macro market data that can help you determine if your property is over-assessed and can help you create a clear report supporting your appeal.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Is there anything the community can do to protect our trees from being removed by developers creating room for large new homes?

Answer: I’d like to dedicate more columns to this topic because it’s one of the most common questions I hear when talking to non-condo/townhome dwelling Arlingtonians and something I think needs more attention from the real estate community. I feel strongly that maintaining existing trees not only contributes to the long-term value of the neighborhood, but can actually maximize developer profits as well. To highlight how it can be financially beneficial to developers’ bottom line, I decided to use one of my favorite properties of 2016, 512 N. Littleton Street of Boulevard Manor, in my first video post.

512 N. Littleton StreetAs of the filming of the video, the property was under contract, but has since sold so I now have the benefit of knowing the final sold price. The developer, Ahmad Khreshi of Home Perfection Consulting, made an effort to keep as many trees as possible and the result was an incredibly profitable investment.

Here’s a summary of how well he did, with the biggest differentiating factors between his home and similar new construction being the maintenance of mature trees on the property and infusion of neighborhood character into the design.

  • 512 Littleton was listed for $1.55M and sold for $1.5M in just 55 days
  • 512 Littleton had the highest asking price of any of the 435 single family homes sold west of Glebe between Route 66 and Route 50, since 2014
  • Within that market, the average sale price of a similar new home was $1.255M, meaning 512 Littleton sold for $245,000 more than comparable homes
  • It took an average of 107 days for new homes to sell in 2016, meaning 512 Littleton sold twice as fast as its competition

With so many new homes on lots devoid of trees, there is clearly a demand for a lot with the natural privacy and shade provided by mature trees, even if it means knocking a few hundred square feet from the finished product. Ahmad didn’t set out to build the biggest house he could, rather design a home around the existing footprint and trees, which allowed it to blend more naturally with the neighborhood. In doing so, he delivered what may be the most profitable investment in Arlington in 2016.

I look forward to continuing to explore the relationship of real estate development and the environment more often to encourage responsible development in Arlington. I’d also like to incorporate more video into my columns, although, I don’t think I’ll be leaving real estate for a job in front of the camera any time soon!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — January 3, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How did Arlington real estate do in 2016?

Answer: Arlington continued its trend of stability and light growth in 2016 with 2,933 total transactions (just 39 more than 2015) and $1.87B in total sales volume (vs $1.85B last year). At an average net sold price (sold price less any seller credits) of $636,839, Arlington saw a price increase of .15%, while maintaining its 2015 market pace, with an average of 49 days on market per sale. The 22207 zip code continued its strong growth in 2016, cracking an average sold price of over $1M for the first time, due to the increasing number of expensive new homes replacing older teardowns.

Top Sales

  • At $3.7M, the most expensive sale of the year goes to a nearly 4,500sqft penthouse-level condo in Turnberry Tower
  • At $3,343,085 the most expensive single family home boasted over 7,000 sq ft in the premier Country Club Hills neighborhood
  • The most expensive sale in south Arlington (south of rt. 50) went to a 7,500 sq ft new home in Addison Heights (across from Crystal City) at $1,625,000

Macro Stats

I’ve charted some macro-level end-of-year stats below. Sold price is the net of the sold price less any seller credits. Days on market measures market pace (under 30 days is consider very fast) and can be seen as a leading indicator of future pricing shifts (lower days = higher demand). “Discount” shows how much homes sell for compared to the original list price (100% means buyer paid full price).

Note that the 22213 zip code has a substantially lower number of transactions (59 total) than any other zip code, so the YoY numbers are more easily influenced by a few outliers. The extreme days on market for 22209 can be attributed to the increasing difficulty of selling units at the River Place Cooperative and the naturally longer sales period for the many luxury condos buildings.

Av Net Sold Price by Zip

2016 Year Over Year Avg Sold Price Change

Avg Days on Market by Zip

Avg Buyer Discount from Original List Price

Arlington has experienced steady, stable growth since 2010, which is something to be happy about while we wrestle with historically high office vacancy rates post-BRAC. As I wrote in November, the upcoming Trump years could provide Arlington a long-awaited bump in growth. Commercial developers and leasing firms remain positive on the long-term outlook for our office market. In 2017, the residential real estate community will keep a close eye on how increasing interest rates will impact buyer demand… and I will continue to keep you updated on our local market!

I hope everybody had a great end to 2016 and is looking forward to a successful 2017. If you or anybody you know has plans to buy, sell, or rent this year, don’t hesitate to give me a call at (703) 539-2529 or email me at [email protected]

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 27, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I have severe allergies to dogs and cats to the point that I can’t even live next to somebody who has a pet. I’d love to buy a condo, but everything in Arlington seems pet-friendly. Are there any pet-free condos in Arlington?

Answer: It seems that every Arlington resident owns a dog and/or cat and that every condo or apartment building proudly markets its pet-friendliness to attract residents. However, there are a surprising number of condo buildings around the county that offer a safe-haven for those suffering from severe pet allergies. The following is a list of condominiums and cooperatives (co-op) in Arlington that restrict the ownership of dogs and cats:

Condominiums and coops in Arlington that restrict the ownership of dogs and cats

River Place is one of the only co-ops in Arlington and Arlington’s largest housing community. Make sure you understand the differences between living in a condo and co-op before considering a purchase in River Place. You also need to know that River Place is on a 100-year land lease that is set to expire in 2052 and very unlikely to be renewed, so the value of most of these units decreases each year in line with the Net Present Value of the rental income for each unit.

Perched above the Iwo Jima memorial, many of the condos in Prospect House offer the best unobstructed (and well-protected) views into DC. With large balconies and spacious floor plans, you’ll make a lot of friends hosting parties for the Fourth of July fireworks.

While owning a single family home or townhouse in Arlington can be cost-prohibitive, there are a number of affordable, convenient condo/co-op options that offer those suffering from severe pet allergies an opportunity to own in Arlington. I’d be happy to discuss these options in more detail with anybody who’s interested, just give me a call at (703) 539-2529 or shoot me an email!

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 20, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: If I purchase an as-is home to renovate myself, what are the best financing options available to me?

Answer: This is Part 2 of the question I answered last week about buying a home as-is. I asked one of the area’s top lenders, Troy Toureau of McLean Mortgage to provide a detailed response. Troy is a fantastic resource for any of your mortgage questions/needs. The following is his response:

If you want to own a home in Arlington or other areas surrounding the city, there is a lot of competition. The good news is that there are older homes requiring updates that many home buyers ignore, while newer, higher-priced properties often attract multiple offers.

Focusing on the renovation-ready market can expand your choices and perhaps give you access to a better location. The process of renovating can also give you a home that is more custom-tailored to your tastes and needs.

Financing a home that you will renovate is a bit more complex than a standard purchase loan. The good news is that there are several options that will help you achieve your goals of upgrading and/or customizing the house for your needs:

Construction Loans

If your renovations are projected to cost over $100,000, you can opt for a construction-permanent loan, based on the value of the home after the renovations are completed. Here is an example:

  • Purchase Price: $450,000
  • Renovation Budget: $150,000

In this case, your total needs are $600,000 and you can obtain a loan of up to 95% of that amount. You will receive the money at closing for the purchase, and then the remainder of the money in draws paid directly to the construction company as the work is completed. When the work is done, you do not have to finance the home again, as this “one-time-close” construction loan will automatically convert to a permanent loan. Larger down payments will be needed for larger loan amounts. Note that there are additional costs associated with construction loans because the appraisal is more complex and there are costs for periodic inspections and draws.

As an additional option, you can opt for a traditional construction loan and refinance into a permanent loan after the work is complete. While this will result in more costs by adding a refinance transaction, you will have more choices for permanent financing on the back end.

Other Financing Options

For renovations under $100,000, there are two good strategies:

  • If you are planning to put 20% or more down on a $600,000 loan, you can simply reduce your down payment to 10%, or even 5%, conserving your cash for the renovations. Here is an example:
    • $600,000 Purchase Price with 20% Down: $120,000
    • $600,000 Purchase Price with 5% Down: $30,000
    • Available funds for renovations: $90,000
    • In addition, the renovations may give you a higher appraised value to help eliminate the mortgage insurance costs associated with lower down payments.
  • If you do not have the cash assets for a large down payment, you can close on the property and then obtain a second mortgage or home equity line-of-credit (HELOC) after closing. To do this, you’ll need to find a bank that will lend the money based upon the renovated value of the house.

In today’s real estate market, especially in high-demand areas, it pays to explore all of your options. If you would like to discuss some of these options when you are considering purchasing a new home and/or renovating an existing home, feel free to contact me at [email protected] or (301) 440-4261.

Troy Toureau, Vice President of Production, NMLS #5618
www.AnyHomeLoans.com | 11325 Random Hills Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22030
McLean Mortgage Corporation | NMLS #99665 (www.nmlsconsumeraccess.org) Equal Housing Lender

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 13, 2016 at 2:45 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What does it mean to buy a home as-is and are there ways to mitigate the buyer’s risks?

Answer: Occasionally sellers offer homes for sale “as-is” and it presents a good opportunity for buyers to purchase below market and earn some sweat equity. These homes tend to be run down, require significant repairs and most owners don’t want to deal with anything other than signing the paperwork to transfer title. Homes may also be offered as-is when the seller doesn’t know anything about the property (e.g. acquired through inheritance).

Last week, I explained that Virginia is a “Buyer Beware” state (Caveat Emptor), which means that sellers do not have to disclose any problems to buyers and the burden of discovery falls strictly on the buyer. As such, selling a property as-is isn’t too different than a regular sale of property in Virginia, but there are a few negotiable differences and while a property can be marketed as-is, it doesn’t mean anything until these changes are explicitly agreed to:

  • There is no requirement to clean or remove debris. The standard is for the property to be free of trash/debris and broom clean.
  • The seller is not responsible for addressing any wood destroying insect/termite issues. The standard agreement requires the seller to pay for this.
  • The seller is not required to fix any Homeowners Association violations on the physical condition of the property.
  • The seller is not responsible for providing working smoke detectors.
  • The seller is not responsible for compliance with notices of violation from local authorities

You should be able to assess the amount of trash/debris and existence of working smoke detectors pretty easily. You can contact Arlington County about any outstanding violations. If you’re buying into an Association, the delivery of a resale package (documents like by-laws and budget) is a non-negotiable requirement and will include any outstanding violations. Wood destroying insect/termite tests are cheap and easy and can be done in conjunction with a pre-inspection or pass/fail inspection (see Mitigating Risks To A Homeowner).

What About Home Inspections?

The list above represents what the Northern VA contract says about as-is sales, but in reality, what most sellers mean when they offer a property as-is is that they intend to deliver the property in its current condition and aren’t interested in fixing anything. I always recommend my clients include a full home inspection contingency in their offer, which allows you to negotiate fixes or seller credits based on the findings of the property’s condition, but don’t expect a seller marketing a home as-is to agree to a full inspection contingency. While investors (teardowns and flips) don’t mind, it puts homeowners in an uncomfortable position.

Mitigating Risks To A Homeowner

  • Select a Contractor: If you’re planning a major renovation, I strongly recommend selecting your contractor ahead of time and asking them to do a walk-thru of the property with you before you make an offer.
  • Pre-Inspection: You can order a full home inspection prior to making an offer. The downside is that you’re paying for an inspection (usually $500-$600 for a single family home) before you’ve signed a contract, but the benefit of being fully informed on the condition of the home is worth it. Make sure you get permission from the seller before ordering a pre-inspection. Pre-inspections are popular in Washington DC right now because of how competitive the market is for buyers, who are often forced to remove the inspection contingency for their offer to be considered.
  • Pass/Fail Inspection: It’s possible to amend the standard inspection addendum to create a pass/fail option by eliminating the right to negotiate based on the property condition. The result is you can inspect the property and make a binary decision – void the contract or move forward with the purchase. This provides you the opportunity to inspect for major problems (e.g foundation issues) and walk away if necessary.
  • Talk To Neighbors: Introduce yourself to a few neighbors and ask them about the home you’re considering purchasing. Neighbors are often aware of major issues with nearby homes or whether the previous owner took care of the property, so don’t be shy.

I’d love to hear from readers about their experiences buying as-is properties and any creative ways you used to mitigate the risks.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — December 6, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: What responsibility does a seller have to disclosure problems with their home or the surrounding community?

Answer: Sellers cannot lie about or conceal material defects of their home, but in Virginia, property owners are under no responsibility to disclose them to a buyer. That’s because Virginia is one of the few states in the US still operating under the common law concept of Caveat Emptor, meaning “Let The Buyer Beware.” This places the duty of discovery (of defects) on the homebuyer.

Residential Property Disclosure

The Residential Property Disclosure is required in most transactions with the exception of sales between relatives, foreclosures, builders and a handful of other scenarios. The Disclosure, signed by the seller and buyer, states that the homeowner(s) makes no representations or warranties with respect to things like:

  • Property Condition
  • Sexual Offenders
  • Adjacent Parcels
  • Wastewater Systems
  • Historic Districts

Alternatively, jurisdictions like Washington DC require extensive disclosures by homeowners. The DC Disclosure runs 4+ pages long and requires owners to make representations on every material aspect of the property and community including roof, insulation, heating/cooling, appliances, drainage, zoning and more.

REALTORS Held To A Higher Standard

While Virginia homeowners aren’t required to disclose defects, the REALTOR Code of Ethics holds us to a higher standard. A listing agent who is a REALTOR “shall disclose to prospective buyers/tenants (customers) all material adverse facts pertaining to the physical condition of the property which are actually known by the licensee.” While listing agents don’t have a duty to discover latent defects, they are required to communicate anything they’re made aware of through the standard course of the transaction be it discussions with the seller, inspection of the property or otherwise.

Protecting Yourself

Sellers are well protected by Virginia law and buyers are made to do their homework on every purchase. In most cases, buyers don’t have the luxury of a lengthy discovery period prior to buying a home, so what are some ways buyers can reduce their risk?

  • Hire a great home inspector. A good home inspector is one of the most important relationships your real estate agent should have. While inspectors cannot pry up floorboards and open walls to inspect every bone of a house, a great inspector knows the signs of expensive defects in plumbing, foundation, water intrusion, etc.
  • Talk to your future neighbors. Visit the neighborhood without your agent and knock on some doors if you can’t find any neighbors outside. Start the conversation off with general questions about what it’s like living in the community and gradually move into questions about the home, if there are any noise/traffic issues, etc.
  • Ask direct questions of the seller if there are any red flags. Remember, sellers cannot lie, so if you find a wet spot in the basement, ask if they’ve ever dealt with plumbing issues or water intrusion in the basement.
  • Work with a local expert. We are responsible for disclosing material facts about the purchase beyond the physical home itself, meaning any relevant information about the community that impacts your decision to purchase. It takes a local expert, somebody who follows the community closely, to know if there are any material concerns.

Personally, I’d like to see Virginia make changes to the seller disclosure laws to balance the scales a bit. One could make a case that increasing disclosure requirements would reduce buyer risk, thereby making Virginia homes more valuable and pushing home values up across the board (sellers would still have the ability to offer “As-Is”). As a counter point, buyers in jurisdictions with heavy disclosure requirements can rely too much on what the seller says/does not say and fall victim to a seller simply not being aware of a defect that a buyer could have discovered through due diligence. What do you think? Are you happy with the current system or would you like to see Virginia get rid of Caveat Emptor and place more duty on the seller to disclose material defects?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 29, 2016 at 12:30 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: I’ve been gearing up for a home purchase and wondering if the winter is a good time to buy or if I should hit the pause button until spring. What are your thoughts on buying in the winter?

Answer: I love working with buyers in the winter because the chances of negotiating major savings increases substantially. In Northern Virginia, the winter market generally runs from late November through mid March (Thanksgiving to March Madness) and is defined by deeper discounts, less contract activity and fewer new listings. While many buyers can benefit from winter shopping, it’s not the right time for everybody.

Ask Eli Winter is Coming

Negotiate In The Winter If…

  • You’re a bargain hunter
  • What you like is priced just outside of your budget
  • What you like is fairly easy to find
  • You can accept losing on a few deals

Be Patient If…

  • You have specific, hard-to-find criteria
  • You value the perfect home over a great deal
  • Your purchase is contingent on selling your current home (requires additional conversation)

That’s not to say you can’t negotiate a great deal in the spring or find a unique property in the winter, but if you’re playing the odds, the above is a good set of guidelines for deciding the best seasons to focus on a purchase.

I’ll let you review the trends for yourself:

Chart #1 shows that in the winter buyers pay about 2% less, relative to original asking price, than they do in peak months. On a $500,000 purchase, that’s $10,000 in savings! The numbers along the Y-axis represent the percent of the sold price to the original list price (100% means the buyer paid full price). These numbers do not factor in any seller credits.

Median sale to list price ratio

Chart #2 highlights why buyer leverage increases during the winter. It shows the number of homes that go under contract each month and there’s clearly a lot less activity during the winter, meaning sellers are seeing a lot less showings and offers.

New pendings

Chart #3 shows a significant drop in the number of new listings from November to March, meaning you’re less likely to find the perfect home if you have a difficult set of criteria.

New listings

If you’re on the fence about buying this winter or not sure if you have time to prepare yourself to make a purchase, give me a call at (703) 539-2529 or send me an email at [email protected] to discuss your options and put a strategy in place.

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

 

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 22, 2016 at 12:00 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: Do solar panels improve or hurt the resale value of a home?

Answer: Green living. Green roofs. Green technology. With so much time spent discussing Green initiatives, you would think that investing in solar panels and other eco-friendly home products would put you in a competitive advantage when you sell your home. In my experience, that’s not the case.

Arlington residents overwhelmingly vote and promote Green policies locally and nationally, but I’ve found that when it comes down to the pocketbooks of individual buyers, most are not willing to pay a premium for a home that’s been upgraded with eco-friendly products and landscaping. Businesses, not residents, are usually the ones who take up Green initiatives because there’s a positive return for their brand and larger tax incentives.

Cost Savings vs. Aesthetics

Solar panels are a slightly different story because they can provide real savings with lower utility bills and tax incentives. However, there are two factors that offset those savings in buyers’ minds — aesthetics and maintenance concerns. The current technology is predominately the large panels you’re used to seeing, which isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing, especially when so many buyers are spending $1M+. Buyers are also skeptical of future maintenance costs if panels stop working or are damaged in a storm. Also, keep in mind that the pay-off period for the energy savings can take 10+ years.

For proof of the difficulty solar panels have had in the residential market, you don’t have to look much further than Elon Musk’s Solar City, which due to recent financial struggles, was recently acquired by Tesla.

Solar Will Improve Resale…Eventually

The solar industry has started introducing solar roofs, instead of solar panels, which incorporate solar technology into individual shingles so that it looks like a normal roof (it’s supposed to be more durable too). Right now it’s expensive, but as the prices comes down, I expect it will catch on quickly and become a great selling point.

What do you think about the resale value of homes with solar panels? It usually costs $10-15k to add solar panels to a home. If you were buying a home for $1M, would you be willing to pay a premium of $5-10k? Would you make a better offer on a home with solar panels than the same home without panels?

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor — November 15, 2016 at 12:15 pm 0

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This regularly-scheduled sponsored Q&A column is written by Eli Tucker, Arlington-based Realtor and Rosslyn resident. Please submit your questions to him via email for response in future columns. Enjoy!

Question: How do you think Trump’s presidency will impact real estate in Arlington/Northern Virginia?

Answer: I’ve never gotten so many questions about the same topic before (shocker…)! Like most of you, I entered election night completely unprepared for the result, so I’ve spent a lot of time getting read up on the impact Trump will have on our real estate market. The following is a summary of my findings sans my personal politics. Chicken Littles beware, I’m an optimist!

The Outlook Is Positive

Most of what I’ve read suggests that the Northern VA real estate market stands to benefit in the short and mid term from Trump, but the long term impact is where the concern lies. Key factors include:

  • Increased Defense Spending: More jobs, more office space and more money for the major Defense employers in the area like DoD, Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon should increase demand for housing, particularly in the mid and upper markets.
  • Tax Cuts: The assumed tax cuts should give a number of fringe buyers enough cash to cover a down payment sooner than they expected. I wonder if this will encourage developers to convert large multi-family buildings from rental apartments to condos.
  • Deregulation: Expect major deregulation on banks (Dodd-Frank) and home building to make it easier and cheaper to build new homes, thereby increasing the housing supply, which, in Arlington, is less than half of what economists say it should be in a neutral market. I do expect we’ll see increased demand well before an increase in supply.
  • Markets: After the election-night 5% tumble in futures, domestic markets have responded positively, signaling faith in the economic impact of Trump’s presidency. Strong markets tend to signal strong real estate growth.

Still Too Much Uncertainty

Ken Harney, Real Estate writer for the Washington Post, recently admitted, “It’s still too early to assess [the new reality of the real estate market].” Despite early optimism from many industries, a lot of it comes down to Trump’s design and implementation before we can determine the impact. Here are a few major questions:

  • Foreign Policy: Trump’s foreign policy changes project to be the biggest destabilizing factor of his presidential agenda and poorly executed foreign policy could easily trump (pun intended) any domestic growth. It’s way too early to start guessing how his foreign policy will impact local real estate, but it’s not too early to start hoping he gets it right!
  • Fannie/Freddie: One of the biggest questions facing the residential housing market is how Trump will handle Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, makers of the mortgage industry. Trump has spoken about dissolving these institutions, but hasn’t said much about what would replace them. If he leads a major attack on Fannie and Freddie, look out for drastic changes in access to credit and mortgage rates, for better or worse.
  • Interest Rates: It’s time for us to stop telling consumers where we think mortgage rates are going, especially now that there are so many questions about the economy and turnover on Fed’s Board of Governors. Lynn Fisher, VP of Research and Economics for the Mortgage Bankers Association said interest rates might rise from the current 3.6 percent to 5.4 percent by 2019, but she added, “We’ve been wrong continuously for the last couple of years.”

Remember Where You Live

Arlington (and DC Metro) real estate remains one of the most stable real estate investments during difficult economic climates. We faired well during the Great Recession and Business Week ranks us among the top places to live during a recession. Strong fundamentals including Federal Government/Contractor jobs and valuable infrastructure like the Metro and an industry-leading fiber optic network support the local housing market.

The best advice I can give (mostly stolen from Warren Buffet) is don’t try to time the market, bet on America in the long-term, and make real estate decisions based on the needs of you and your family, not the talking heads on CNBC. Oh, and if you decide to bury gold in your backyard, do it quietly, after midnight and during a New Moon.

Here are some good articles I’ve found that hit on a range of topics that impact the local and national real estate market:

How Trump’s Presidency Could Impact Real Estate

Impact on 15 industries including Real Estate, Defense, and Banking

N.Va. economy, housing market in flux as Trump readies for presidency

Positive Outlook On D.C. Office Market

How President Trump Will Change the U.S. Housing Market

If you’d like a question answered in my weekly column, please send an email to [email protected]. To read any of my older posts, visit the blog section of my website at http://www.RealtyDCMetro.com.

Eli Tucker is a licensed Realtor in Virginia, Washington DC, and Maryland with Real Living At Home, 2420 Wilson Blvd #101 Arlington, VA 22201, (202) 518-8781.

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